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MA Y people are so taken up with the thought of getting into Heaven that the fact of there being a different kind of entrance or admission never seems to occur to them. A lady once told the writer that all she desired was to be able to get inside the gate. This speech, with an appearance of humility, was really one of unbelief, and showed utter failure to comprehend the marvelous privileges secured to us by the death of Christ. According to Scripture, there are two kinds of entrance into glory, and one is better than the other. In i Peter iv, 18, we have the following statement: "If the righteous scarcely be saved." The words which we italicize plainly teach an admission, not of the best, but one attended with doubt and difficulty. Paul, in i Cor. iii, 15, speaking of a man's works being burned, adds: "He himself shall be
Abundant Entrance iato Heaven. 87 saved, yet so as by fire." The figure is certainly most striking. It is that of a man who is asleep while his house is on fire. He slumbers on, unconscious of his danger. Some one runs along the street crying, " Fire !" The bells are tolling the alarm. But he hears nothing, and sleeps on, with
flames about him and above him. Finally, a passing friend remembers him, and, seeing the burning building and no sign of life stirring, breaks open the door with a single blow of his foot, seizes his sleeping friend by the arm, and bids him, with a loud cry, to run for his life ! The man opens his eyes, see the fire everywhere, realizes his peril at a glance, does not stop to take hat, shoes, article of dress, watch, purse, or anything; but with one wild leap, clears the door just as the whole roof falls in with a terrible crash. He is saved as by fire. So, says the Apostle Paul, some people will behold every work burned up, but be saved themselves, yet as by fire. Peter, however, was not talking about this class when he speaks of the righteous. To know what he means, let every justified man, who has carried inbred sin in his heart for years, confess to the existence of grave fears in
88 The Better Way. that time as to whether he would finally be saved. He that has been repeatedly betrayed into irritability, anger, pride, a disposition to settled dislikes, etc., has had enough to make him sing, with emphasis and meaning, the old hymn of the colored people : " I wonder, Iyord, if I '11 ever get to Heaven !" There are Christians to-day that do not feel easy about their final salvation. If dying suddenly to-day, and saved, they feel it would be of the "scarcely-saved" order.
Preachers, reading these words, will thoroughly understand what we mean. There has not been a pastor but has been troubled about the final salvation of some of his flock. One of these pastors — now a bishop — said, about a certain prominent member of his congregation, as he lamented the religious "ins and outs" of the brother, his wanderings and recoveries, that it looked like a pity God did not kill and take him to Heaven while he was in or crossing the road of righteousness. More light we see in this remark on i Peter iv, 18: "If the righteous scarcely be saved." We feel the truth in the passage still more deeply after a pastoral occurrence of the followingcharacter : ews comes to the parsonage, one day,
Abundant Entrance into Heaven. 89 that Brother Blank, steward, trustee, and perhaps Sunday-school teacher, is very sick, and likely to die. The pastor promptly visits the dying-bed, and, to his surprise, obtains no satisfactory reply from the sinking man about his spiritual condition. He is strangely reticent. There is no light in his face, and no response during the closing prayer. To direct questions as to his spiritual state, there is a marked evasion in reply. Full of concern, the pastor sends the most spiritual of his members to sing and pray with the brother. On their return, they report that he did not join in song or prayer, and did not request them to return; but said, in answer to their offer to come again, "that if they desired to come, he would be pleased to see them" — a polite speech that was felt to have no religious ring in it. After a week's sickness, it was whispered one afternoon that Brother
Blank, steward, trustee, and Sunday-school teacher, was dead. To the anxious query, "How he died?" it was told that, about two hours before he passed away, he said he was reconciled to go. More light, verily, on 1 Peter iv, 18! Another righteous man scarcely saved ! A preacher once told the writer of the death of a very prominent preacher in our Church. The
90 The Better Way. " prominent preacher " was very prominent. Many praised him. His hands were fnll of business for the Church. When he came to die, a minister sitting by his bedside asked him about his spiritual state, and was surprised to receive an evasive reply. He put the question in a plainer manner, and was this time alarmed at the answers given. He communicated his uneasiness to another preacher in the same town, and together they visited, talked, and prayed with this man who had been betrayed into going deeper into Church- work than in the grace of God. Truly, Church-w T ork and ecclesiastical affairs that should be and can be a blessing, yet can become a snare and even ruin to the soul. The Jewish Church was very busy, but very dead, when Christ came and looked upon it. He said it was as beautiful as a polished sepulcher, but covered corruption and dead men's bones. After a few days or a week the u prominent" brother expressed his willingness to die. Decidedly a negative expression of that full salvation and joyous faith and confidence taught in the Bible. Think of a man becoming, after days of prayer, resigned to go to Heaven ! Paul longed to go.
How the light falls on i Peter iv, 18 ! So much for this bare entrance into glory.
Abundant Entrance into Heaven. 91 There is a better one, which Peter calls the " abundant entrance.' ' In his second epistle, Peter writes that there are " exceeding great and precious promises, " and through them " we become partakers of the Divine nature, " having already " escaped the corruption of the world through lust." Here are the two works of grace. The man, " having escaped the corruption of the world," is confronted by promises of a still higher nature, and through them becomes a " partaker of the Divine nature." To this state of grace the man adds virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, and every other excellent grace and virtue. If he fails to do this, he will soon suffer loss, and by and by " forget that he was purged [not forgiven] from his old sins." But if he goes on abounding in the good way, Peter says he will " neither be barren nor unfruitful," " shall never fall," and — blessed, glorious privilege of grace — " an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Here, any one can see, is a vivid contrast to what he speaks of in chapter iv, 18.
First Peter iv, 18, describes a bare admission into
92 The Better Way. Heaven; but 2 Peter i, 11, declares an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom. The first man was " righteous ;" the second, according to the statement made in the fourth verse, had received a second grace ; for he, through certain gracious promises, became a partaker of the Divine nature, having escaped the corruption of the world through lust. The first was scarcely saved, the second character was abundantly saved. Is there a difference between " scarcely " and " abundantly?' J The writer wants an abundant entrance into glory. Who would not have it ? Especially since it is our privilege through Christ. L,et us hunt up the exceeding great and precious promises, where God says: "From all your filthiness and all your idols will I cleanse you ; and I will take the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will put my Spirit within you ;" " Tarry at Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high;" " For the promise is to you and your children, and to them that are afar off, and to as many as the Lord our God shall call ;" and lo ! He calls all of us to holiness. Thus shall we be prepared for abundant usefulness and for the abundant entrance into Heaven.
Abundant Entrance into Heaven. 93 Thus went into glory one of the orthern
Methodist preachers, who said exultantly with his dying breath: "I am sweeping through the gates." So swept in a sanctified preacher's wife of our acquaintance, who, when she was dying and told she would pass away in five minutes, looked up and said, "And this is death! Hallelujah !" and was gone. Somehow, if God wills, we would like to do our best preaching on the day of our death. We would like our dying bed to be a pulpit of fire ; its side to be an altar of salvation to others ; and the soul just tarrying to speak a few farewell words before springing up and away on its pathway beyond the stars. There are twelve gates to the city — three on the north, three on the south, three on the east, and three on the west. Somehow we would prefer to enter though the center gate on the sunny south side. And when we are gone, may it not be said of us that he was simply resigned to go, but he longed to depart and be with Christ ? Elijah was not " scarcely saved," but swept upward with an abundant entrance into glory. The same chariot and horses of fire are in Heaven.
94 The Better Way. May we live so that they will be sent for us, and as we float upward with trails of glory left in dying face and last speeches, may Elishas left behind catch up the falling glory, and so perpetuate the line of men who desire and shall have an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom!
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